Published on 29 September 2022

Anxiety And Fear: What's The Difference?

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Anxiety and dread are two emotionally connected feelings that are a natural part of living. Anxiety is a sense of worry, nervousness, or unease about an upcoming event or a potentially dangerous circumstance, whereas fear is a reaction to a particular peril or threat. Although anxiety and dread can help us prepare for possible danger in some cases, they can also be overpowering and interfere with everyday living.

Worry disorders are a type of mental illness characterized by excessive and constant worry and fear. Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder are all examples of prevalent anxiety disorders. These illnesses can majorly affect a person's quality of life and capacity to function.

Anxiety and dread have complicated causes that differ from person to person. A combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological variables can cause stress and worry, and certain medical conditions can also cause or worsen these feelings.

What is Anxiety?

Sigmund Freud defined anxiety as "The symptomatic expression of the inner emotional conflict caused when a person suppresses (from conscious awareness) experiences, feelings, or impulses that are too threatening or disturbing to live with." 
The acute stress response is essential in understanding the usual reaction to stressors and has guided research, but it has some limitations for understanding anxiety. Depression and anxiety are common mental disorders, with a 10–44% prevalence in developing countries; depression is the fourth leading cause of morbidity.

Common Anxiety Signs And Symptoms

Social phobia describes Fear and Anxiety as leading to avoidance of social interaction in social situations. Many people don't even notice their activity which makes them anxious. So, here are some signs of anxiety that anyone can see. 

  • Feeling nervous, restless, or tense
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom
  • Having an increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Trouble concentrating  
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired 

Causes And Risk Factors Of Anxiety

Many risk factors make you anxious in certain situations and may increase the risk of developing an Anxiety disorder. To avoid this situation, you should control the following risk factors.


Children who endured Abuse or Trauma (Post-traumatic stress disorder) in childhood or witnessed traumatic events are at higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Even adults can also have some chance of developing anxiety disorders due to traumatic events. 

The stress of an illness

Having a health condition or serious problems can cause stress about future treatment. Sometimes, a build-up of smaller stressful life events may trigger excessive worry and lead to anxiety.

Stress build-up

A build-up of smaller stressful life events may trigger excessive worry and lead to anxiety.

Other mental disorders

People with depression and other mental health conditions often have the possibility of an Anxiety disorder. If this disorder gets out of control, then contact your doctor instantly.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Anxiety 

The treatments for Anxiety disorders involve psychotherapy and medications. Sometimes, doctors advise taking medicines and therapy to reduce anxiety symptoms. Let's see which therapy and drugs are used to overcome anxiety.


Talk therapy or psychological counseling involves working with a therapist to reduce anxiety symptoms. Following are some therapies used to overcome anxiety. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

This is the most effective form of psychotherapy to treat anxiety disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) will help you focus on specific skills to improve your symptoms and gradually return to the activities you avoided due to anxiety.

Exposure Therapy

It is a kind of behavioral therapy. A person is exposed to a situation, event, or object that triggers anxiety, fear, or panic; for example, if a person gets anxious after seeing a snake, then the therapist will use imaginal exposure to help the client imagine the whole situation in his head and then prepare him for a response to the trigger. After some time, the client will learn controlled exposure which will help them to reduce anxiety or panic in such a case.

Different exposure therapies

Therapies like Vivo, Imaginal, Virtual reality, and Interoceptive exposure may be used. These techniques will help to build confidence while managing anxiety symptoms.


Medicines are prescribed to treat anxiety and other mental problems, such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, etc. A doctor may prescribe benzodiazepines, sedatives, or beta blockers for your concern. Taking medicines without a doctor's permission can increase the risk of side effects; therefore, it is advised to use them under the guidance of a doctor.

What is Fear?

Dan Brown says, "Men go to far greater lengths to avoid what they fear than to obtain what they desire." When we identify a threat, the body will respond in a particular way—given a choice; any average person will choose to avoid a fearful or dreadful situation while walking on the path of success.

Fear signals the presence of danger and the threat of harm. It's a natural response but can lead to distress and disruption in extreme cases. Suppose you're home alone, scared of loneliness, and suddenly someone knocks on the door and asks for something. Your heart gets to pound fastly. This situation would be a fearful situation for you.

Signs and Symptoms of Fear

Fear is a natural thing that occurs in everyone. When it affects you, your body suddenly experiences minor system changes. These changes are also known as symptoms which are given below.

  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sweating 
  • Trembling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Chills
  • Upset stomach

Apart from these, the following are Psychological symptoms of fear:

  • Feeling detached from the body
  • Inability to focus and concentrate
  • Feeling a sense of stress
  • Lacking emotional control
  • A pending sense of doom

Primary Reactions Of Fear

There are two primary reactions of fear: biochemical reaction and emotional response. Both reactions respond in different ways. Let's get a brief detail about it.

Biochemical Reaction

Fear is a survival mechanism that responds in specific ways while confronting a perceived threat. Our body produces physical reactions to fear, including Sweating, increased heart rate, and high adrenaline levels. The biological response is also called the "fight or flight" response. 

Emotional Response

The emotional response to fear will differ for every individual. People can experience positive or negative emotions to fear, as the biology of fear involves the same chemical reactions to positive and negative emotions.

When feelings of fear become persistent and excessive, they are diagnosed as an Anxiety disorder depending on the symptoms of fear, such as phobias, generalized Anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder.

Causes and Risk factors Of Fear

There is no single primary cause for fear. Some fears result from Trauma, while others may represent a fear of something else, such as losing control. Some concerns may occur since they cause physical symptoms, such as a fear of heights.

Some common fear triggers include:

  • Particular objects or situations (spiders, snakes, heights, flying, Etc.)
  • Future events
  • Imagined events
  • Real environmental dangers
  • Specific fears are innate and may be evolutionarily influenced because they aid survival. 
  • Some fears are connected to associations or traumatic experiences. 

Diagnosis and Treatment of Fear 

Treatments for phobias can be used for conditions associated with extreme fear since they involve repeated disclosure of the feared situation until the patient becomes familiar with the fear response.

Systematic Desensitization is one type of therapy used for people with extreme fears. In this therapy, the therapist helps the client to go through a series of situations, gradually leading them towards fearful stimuli. 

For instance, if someone has a phobia of lizards, the steps may go as follows:

  • Talking to the therapist about lizards
  • See pictures of lizards – this could start as drawings and gradually get more realistic until the patient can view a photo of one.
  • The patient may be encouraged to watch video footage of a lizard.
  • The patient could handle a toy lizard.
  • Eventually, the patient should get to a stage where they can face a genuine lizard.

Difference Between Anxiety And Fear

Fear vs. anxiety is based on excessive and dysfunctional emotions. Anxiety is an extreme and unfocused fear that various stimuli may trigger, but fear is an emotional reaction to a specific, real danger. Anxiety caused by stress may continue long after the trigger is removed or arise without motivation.

Fear is a central emotional state elicited by conditioned stimuli associated with punishment, and anxiety is a state elicited by such stimuli; indeed, it is the same stage. Fear is a subspecies of anxiety. Fear is a state that occurs during a panic attack and is quite a distinct state from anxiety, supported by pharmacological evidence.

The differences in symptom expression between fear and anxiety are centered on several factors, including.

  • Your emotional & mental capacity
  • Your available resources to help you cope,
  • What event triggered your response, 

When to Seek Assistance

If anyone experiences frightening or faces anxiety-related issues, encourage them to make an appointment with a mental health provider. Reminding them of initial check-in is necessary to better care for their emotional health. 

See your doctor For the Following Conditions

  • You are worrying more than usual, interfering with your daily routine, relationships, or other aspects of life.
  • If you cannot control fear, worry, or anxiety, and if it upsets you.
  • When you feel depressed, have trouble with alcohol or drug use, or have mental health concerns.
  • If you think your anxiety could be linked to a physical health problem.
  • You have suicidal thoughts or behaviors —if this is the case, get emergency treatment immediately.

Bottom Line From Practical Anxiety Solution

Anxiety and dread are standard emotional states that can become problematic when they conflict with everyday living. Seeking expert assistance and making lifestyle adjustments can help you manage your feelings and improve your general well-being.

Sometimes anxiety and fear are related, but both have different situations. Fear is a typical and natural human behavior, whereas anxiety is a mental health disorder. Often time both lead to stress also.

Anxiety and fear can be overcome through various treatments. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, etc., are the ones. Therapists can use different techniques to overcome anxiety. Whereas another hand, fear can be controlled by Systematic Desensitization therapy.

If the situation of fear or anxiety goes out of control, you must contact your doctor.